The total emersion into drag racing for Ontario provincial proponent Ian Hill includes a prominent pet project….

While Ian Hill’s name and reputation within Canadian drag racing might be associated first with his involvement as the driving force behind Canada Heads Up and Ontario Grudge Wars racing scenes — his mix within includes too a car of rather storied history.

Hill (who is from Welland ON) did during this just past 2020 racing season continue his career campaign with a very creative ’68 model Chevy Camaro which has now been morphed to the highest levels for Outlaw Street small tire class racing.   

Ian’s Camaro, which is affectionally known and dubbed “Grey Area” — has a rich history of drag racing in Canada.

Ian Hill’s pet project “Grey Area” Chevy Camaro – has been an evolving decade long journey so far.

He revealed,  “It goes way back to the early 1970s when then owner John Stefko bought the car and took it drag racing on weekends.  It was in fact John’s daily driver through the week — before becoming a full time drag car under his ownership.”

Then by the mid-1980’s Niagara Peach grower Clare Warren bought the Camaro, and campaigned it successfully in Stock eliminator as a G/SA (using a  327 CID and power glide combo).  Warren travelled and raced extensively within the U.S. NHRA circuit — setting many records over those years. 

“From there the keys were passed to Digger O’Neil,” Ian continued.  “He rebuilt the Camaro into one of the most highly modified legal Stock eliminator Camaros every seen in NHRA competition — Digger set multiple records with it in the early to mid 90’s.  The rumours are legendary too when he owned it – around what was still considered factory dimensioned on the ’68 — and all stemming from what was done in secrecy and behind closed doors in Diggers shop!”

Ian’s Camaro also saw time racing with Don Raiser (from New York state) who set records with it too using a 327 based combo in the early 2000’s. Then Dan Velenosi (from Stoney Creek) brought ownership of the Camaro back to Canada and campaigned it faithfully — mainly within the local-southern Ontario Stock/ Super Stock series. 

“I first acquired the Camaro (from Dan) about 2010,” Ian confirmed. “I knew the Camaro had a rich Canadian drag racing history — but the technology was becoming dated over time.  So I put the Camaro up on a home made jig and removed anything race related – including the cage, wiring, and suspension.  The engine and trans were all removed too and replaced with new. I installed a cage kit to better keep the car stiff, split mono leaf spring rear suspension and the latest trick Super Stock shocks I could find for the front.”

“I first raced it in IHRA stock eliminator and in the local Stock/ Super series and racked up many wins and a St. Thomas Dragway track championship,” he added  “But over time this — “small tires heads up bug” really got me — and that set a course for where I am now with it.”

Ian worked worked closely with Fred Smith (Smith Performance Specialties) to update the car with 7.50 certification.  The Camaro was also put on a weight losing diet including help from Kelly Cooper’s Joe Van O for a light weight Outlaw 10.5 style rear wing, bolt on hood and deck lid and spoiler.

Hill’s engine program for the Camaro is also vastly different than what it used to be — now 100% dedicated and intricate for the Outlaw Street/EZ Street type categories.  

“The first heads-up combination I tried had a crank drive Pro-charger setup with 18 degree 390 CID small block Chevy,” he continued.  “We won our first race and set a RWHP record while using the Misener Motorsports chassis dyno.  In 2019 the car was set up for the new DXP Street class — and we did take it to Georgia for “Lights Out 11” —  where we qualified 6th and went a few rounds in Nitrous plate trim.”

But while doing all that, in the background Ian had for a while been playing with and tuning some fuel injected super charged and turbo charged small tire cars.

Ian Hill did provide this season highlight reel moment with his Camaro at St. Thomas Dragway last summer!

“I always knew “Grey Area” would be updated in that vein at least one time,” he winked.  “So new for 2021, it will come out with a Bullseye Power Turbocharger (NLX 88mm single turbo).   It also has a new Hutch’s 2-speed Transmission as well as some chassis and differential updates (by Smith Performance Specialties).”

Ian confirmed that his Camaro will also now feature a Haltec Nexus Fuel Injection system installed and tuned by himself and Wajdy Kahlil (WK Performance in Hamilton). 

The new motor program configuration is an alcohol burning/aluminum block 399 CID SBC, with CFE 18 degree heads and a 2-piece intake manifold. 

Now Hill’s Camaro is a very versatile piece which can be made legal for various small tire classes including Canada Heads Up – EZ Street, Ontario Grudge Wars – Limited 28s.   “Perhaps the car’s name may be better suited as “Swiss Army Knife” now (?) — as it can fit so many classes,” Ian winked.

“While we intend to keep the radials on the back — I’m sure there will be a few times we will attempt to put the slicks back on — try to repeat some No Prep success we also did enjoy in 2020.” 

One thing that is for sure — Hill’s “Grey Area” Camaro is well poised for some career best math coming for 2021 and for the vast connoisseur fan base within this popular genre for drag racing — it will remain a focal point of attention.

(Editor’s Note:  DragRaceCanada will post a separate feature around Ian Hill Promotions intricate involvement with Canada Heads Up circuit events – including details for exciting upcoming season plans for 2021 – coming a bit later this off-season.)

Post by Bruce Biegler 

Photos by Bruce Biegler & courtesy of Dwayne Young